Stanford Handles New Mexico, 73-54

Dec. 18, 2007

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- Stanford (No. 4 ESPN/USA Today, No. 5 AP) is on a roll going into its big game with No. 1 Tennessee. No surprise that Candice Wiggins is still leading the way.

Wiggins scored 18 of her 21 points in the first half, Jayne Appel added 18 points and freshman Kayla Pederson had 13 as the Cardinal beat New Mexico 73-54 on Tuesday night before a noisy crowd of 8,711 at The Pit.

'We were really excited to be here,' Wiggins said. 'We've heard lots of stuff about their crowd. We knew it wasn't going to be a game that was won in five minutes. We just played hard and made it a 40-minute game.'

Wiggins had another big effort just two nights after going for 35 points in a lopsided victory over Baylor. Stanford (9-1) has won six straight, including four in a row by at least 19 points.

Now comes the real test.

The Cardinal, the highest-ranked women's team ever to visit The Pit, finally can look ahead to a tantalizing matchup Saturday at Maples Pavilion against Tennessee.

'I'm very excited,' Wiggins said. 'I've played them every year and it's my last year. I know all their players. It's going to be a really fun game.'

Amy Beggin put in a spirited effort, leading the Lobos (7-4) with 10 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals, but New Mexico lost its second straight at home.

Lobos coach Don Flanagan said before tipoff that Wiggins might be the best player ever to visit The Pit, and she lived up to the hype. She had six rebounds, six assists and three steals with just two turnovers in 33 minutes.

Wiggins was 5-of-10 on 3-pointers, hitting three straight during an 11-3 run late in the first half as Stanford broke a 24-24 tie. The Cardinal went 6-of-10 from 3-point range to build a 41-29 lead at halftime.

'They were definitely better than us,' Flanagan said. 'We went with the percentages. They shoot 29 percent on the 3s and they hit 60 percent in the first half. So percentages don't always work.'

The Lobos could do little as Stanford fired away on the perimeter to beat New Mexico's zone defense. If Flanagan went man-to-man, Stanford took advantage with the 6-foot-4 Appel or 6-4 Pederson getting free underneath the basket.

'They're just a solid team with a great inside-outside game,' Flanagan said. 'They have good coaching, good talent and they play well together. It's very difficult to defend a team like that.'

Fans who made The Pit roar early in the first half -- Beggin's layup put New Mexico up 15-9 near the 12-minute mark -- grew frustrated when officials called nine fouls on the Lobos while giving Stanford just two in the first half.

Then the Cardinal seized the momentum as Wiggins heated up.

'Candice is a great leader for us,' Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. 'She came out and shot the ball well. She really hustled on defense. She talked to our young team, playing in front of the crowd.'

Stanford kept things going after the break. Jillian Harmon hit a layup and completed a three-point play after a New Mexico turnover to put Stanford ahead 52-33 with 13:28 remaining.

The Lobos made a brief challenge. Reserve center Valerie Kast scored three baskets to help New Mexico cut the margin to 57-44 midway through the second half but Stanford used an 8-0 burst to regain control at 64-44 with 7 1/2 minutes to go.

'The Lobos played very well, very inspired,' VanDerveer said. 'This is a tremendous atmosphere. To come in here and have this many fans coming out and supporting women's basketball, it was very exciting for us to be here.'

New Mexico was coming off its worst effort of the season, a 22.8 percent shooting performance in a 44-36 loss to Arizona last weekend.

'We played a lot better than we did against Arizona. It would be hard not to,' Beggin said. 'But we took too long to get into our offense, and that's something that falls on me.'

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